BigBadBallGame Pt.2: BigBadBugs

A wise man once said:

‘Don’t code, it’s hard as shit, and unbelievably infuriating’

Wise words, wise man.

It’s going well, considering i’m still useless… The game is taking shape nicely, there have been a lot of changes in my mind as I’ve gone through the coding as to what I want the end product to be. This is due in part to what i’m capable of coding, and keeping my aspirations in check of what a first finished game should be able to achieve, considering the useless coder at the helm.

I’d like to upload some gifs and whatnot, but this stupid website won’t let me unless I pay.

I’m nearing what I guess I would call the mid stage of the basics of the game. The player’s paddle moves, interacts with the ball, which in turn interacts with the walls. There’s some basic AI going on, the opposition paddle will hit the ball back, and will chase powerups and all that good stuff.

Next on the agenda will be a score, menus, all the boring stuff that nobody gives a shit about but is super necessary.

And…

Oh My God the bugs. The coding part; getting the game objects to all interact and do the cool stuff, that’s fucking easy. Trying to figure out why seven paddles appear when the ball touches the wall at a funny angle, that’s shit.

I’m using a super easy game programming language, and can only imagine what hell is instore when I move on to Unity, but we all have to start somewhere, but debugging all these stupid problems is …. well, it’s super rewarding actually, when you find out what colon you’ve missed out, or what number should be a different number, or a letter, or not there at all, or in a different place, or in the same place but run at a different time, or.. yeah.

BUT soon, I will be doing the designs for all the paddles, balls, powerups, backgrounds (yay), cause I mean, how difficult can it be to design a ball, right?

In the mean time, take a look at some beautifully shit AI scripting.

 

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mmmmmmm.

The current state of gaming part 3: Stigma and Effect

This will be the final part in my ‘State of Gaming’ blog before I return to blogging about my game career progress.

Its a topic that’s been done to death by the media and the news and such, but any series addressing such issues would seem a bit empty without it… The effect gaming has on people.

People outside of the gaming community often take a pretty bleak view on those deeply entrenched inside, and for this, I guess both parties are to blame. On the one side you have those who look at gamers and say ‘All you do is play games, you should get out more, blah blah’ and sometimes these people can have pretty loud voices and can claim they know whats best (Parents, religious folk, teachers). But maybe us gamers don’t help ourselves by.. well.. only playing games and not getting out enough.

But what does gaming actually do to us? Are those on the outside judging justified in their opinions? I can only speak on a personal level.. and well, no, they’re not.

I want to try and remain unbiased on the issue, just so I can try and see the argument from both sides, but I gotta admit, it’s pretty difficult.

I started gaming when I was about 10 or 11 and at the time social competence wasn’t really a thing anyway. I mean, nobody is inviting you out to house parties when you’re 10. But this is when I feel a lot of parents would worry; ‘ Why is lil’ Jimmy inside playing games so much? why isn’t he out climbing trees and eating mud?’

Well, thanks, Karen (most mums are called Karen I think?). What about the benefits of gaming for a small child? It’s no secret playing video games helps with finger dexterity (surgeons are encouraged to play video games to help keep the fingers in tip-top shape!), it helps with spatial awareness, and problem solving (perhaps not in the traditional sense, but whilst a child’s brain is malleable, learning how to go about defeating a tough boss can’t be a bad thing). Finally, creativity can be developed by looking at how developers use art and music to make their games! These are all great for children, and while Karen may think burning ants with a magnifying glass may be ‘teaching them science’, I can bet playing Portal will subconsciously help them understand how gravity works and teach them just as much as murdering insects.

At the age of 14/15/16, I reached my ‘peak’ of gaming when people around you in school or college started to form their opinions that gamers were ‘uncool’ and such. This can have pretty damaging effects on kids and that’s a big shame. I was pretty fortunate that I was never really on the receiving end, but I knew some kids in school who were and it wasn’t cool.

But these were the kids that did best in school. These were the kids that were artistic. These were the kids that were musical. I feel there’s some innate intertwining between games and creativity/intelligence that perhaps stems from being exposed to problem solving that I mentioned before from an early age.

Importantly, gaming is a great release. Stressed? games will help. Upset, beating the shit out of Voldo on Soul Callibur will help. Happy? Running over some peds in a bus on GTA will only increase the happiness! and don’t give me the nonsense that playing violent video games makes kids violent. Otherwise 80% of children in school would be beating eachother down.

People who get deeper into the games than just playing them get the worst rap from others. Those that buy the merch, wear the cosplay and go to conventions. To this I just have to say, what about people who spend fortunes on football kits from their favourite teams? what’s the difference? I belong to both camps and personally it’s the same to me.

The unfortunate thing is, gamers have now become known simply as the fat pasty spotty white guy of society, and it’s pretty wrong. I know a lot of gamers, and to be honest, if you put them in a line up with a bunch of folks who weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

What I will say to conclude is; gaming to gamers is more than just mashing buttons, and often times is a great leveler for kids to help them mature without them even knowing it, and surely Karen, that’s better than eating a chunk of mud.

 

 

 

It begins! 

It’s time! I’ve spent the past month or so cramming my head with as much information about GameMakerStudio, and feel I’ve learned and addiquate amount to start building my own game !

Ofcourse during the building and coding of the game I’ll have to watch an infinite number of further tutorials to get GameMaker to do what I want, but that’s pretty exciting for me.

This being the first game I’ve ever made, its pretty daunting thinking about where I should start. Do I jump right in and code, do I sort out artwork first? Gameplay mechanics? I guess the logical conclusion would be to start with the gameplay mechanics, difficult to code if you don’t know what it is your coding?

I don’t want to give too much away about the game, but think Tekken crossed with league of legends, and it’s nothing like that. But it’s as descriptive as I wish to be for the time being.

Again, as this is my first game, time frames are something I’m not as yet familiar with. I’ve seen indie game developers twtich stream a game build in 48 hours in GMS, but I’m under no illusions it’ll take me less than 100 times that amount of time.

I’m also under no illusions that the game will suck. Nobody gets it right on their first try, but that’s fine by me. If I know it’s gonna suck It takes the pressure off me a little, although of course, I will pour my heart into it over the coming months to try and make it at least semi playable.

It’s the artwork I’m most looking forward to. As it will be a fighting game(for simplicity’s sake) there won’t be much by way of story and such, so art work will take center stage and I’m super keen to learn as much about pixel art and the like as I build the game.

Exciting times ahead I hope and coming shortly will be some artwork hopefully, and my inevitable complaining about how dificult it is to make a game, yeah!

Coding, coding, drawing, more coding

It’s now been about a month since I wrote my very very first line of code, and I’d like to think I’ve come a long way and achieved a lot, considering how difficult and time consuming coding can be…

I’d like to share what I’ve accomplished so far by means of coding, and the software I’ve used to achieve this…
Firstly, I’ve started gamemaker studio, which is nice and intuitive, and I feel it’s important to start making games as soon as possible, and since c++ is so complex to generate a game, so I picked up something a little easier to to get some results, and it’s good! It’s promising! I’ve made my first game, asteroids!

It took me about 6 hours, and some pretty neat features, most of which came from a tutorial series I found, to help me get to grips with gamemaker. 

Secondly, visual studio, for learning c++. Far and the way the most important for programming, but also probably the hardest. I’ve spent probably around 25 hours so far on c++, I’d like for it to have been more, but with work an the other aspects of design I’m trying to learn, it’s proving difficult! 

Alas I’m proud to say I have now drawn a circle, which seems so convoluted, but awesomely satisfying..

The next step is start building a platformer on game maker , and also start looking into more complicated code in c++, classes and the like…
A long way to go but still feeling very upbeat and determined! 

My Progress So Far

So its been around a week, and I’ve tried to get the ball rolling as fast as I can; build up some momentum for getting a portfolio together for jobs further down the road.

Having done a fair amount of research into the gaming industry already, it seems clear there are a million ways to land yourself a career, so i’m trying to cover as many bases as possible to make myself more employable.

As it’s design i’m mostly looking to, i’ve taken up drawing again. I used to do it quite a bit in school and at the start of university, but it kind of fell by the wayside when my university workload got heavy.

I have always been a big fan of Game of Thrones, so thought i’d start by sketching a couple of the characters to get a feel for it again before I move into game character sketching and working with photoshop.

I also thought it would be a good idea to start building some audio works to add to my portfolio. While not necessarily the work of the designer, it can’t hurt to show prospective employers that I can do extra things.

I used to write a lot of music when I was a little younger, using Cubase mostly. I’ve played instruments for most of my life and writing music comes pretty naturally to me, and soon i’ll try my hand at writing some game themed music for certain scenarios/atmospheres.

Finally, and most importantly, is the coding. No self respecting game designer can get by without knowing how to code. Although it’s not strictly the GD’s jobs to do the coding, knowing whats going on behind the scenes is vital, and being able to communicate with the coders in the language they use can help everything run smoothly. So I’ve been learning c++, and its going great. Of course, it’s difficult and time consuming, and with a full time job, progress is limited but definitely there. I’ve began writing a small text based game just to get a feel for how c++ works, and soon, i’ll begin adding some visuals and hopefully my first (definitely rubbish) video game!

first-game

The game that made me want to pursue a career in game design

Every gamer has those games that make them go “wow..”; those games that stick with you, those that make you feel a bit lost when you’ve completed them, or leave you desperate for more.

Some games for me personally, I can’t stop returning to. Even though they may not have aged particularly well, there’s something about them, that “x-factor” that keeps you coming back.

In my opinion, these are the truly successful games, and these are the games I one day hope to be able to create. For me, it’s not about making big bucks. Sure, CoD and the like are all incredibly successful; they sell millions of units and hold value well, but nobody I know has ever said to me “I can’t put it down”, “I cant stop thinking about it”. The stories in these huge blockbuster titles are great, and the multiplayer is world class, but for me, they lack this “x-factor”; this element that grips you and won’t let go.

So here I will explain to you my top choice, my “x-factor” game.

 

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Released in 2003 by Microsoft, Freelancer is that game. I first played Freelancer when I was around 12, and boy did I love it. It was the first game I ever completed the campaign for and the first game I felt a little bit empty after finishing.

Freelancer had its roots in the old Elite game from many years before (what has now been redone into the new Elite and Elite Dangerous). For me it was the father of the space exploration genre, and every game in the genre since to me has been some weaker version.

Why Freelancer? First and foremost is the storyline. If ever you wanted a masterclass in story writing this game is it. The plot at first just seems like another of “those space stories with space pirates” and the like. But it grows, it twists and turns, and I don’t wish to give too much away for anyone out there who hasn’t played it, but the character interaction is fantastic The plot feels organic , you grow to feel like you know the protagonist and rest of the characters as you go with them through the story.

The playability is incredible, although some missions between the main storyline feel a little repetitive, the plot is so deep its enough to spur you on through those tedious side missions. The game felt ahead of its time. Even when I play now, the content doesn’t leave me wanting. It has everything a space explorer could need and does each aspect brilliantly. The variety in ships is there, the choice of ship modding is there. The one thing that these newer games had that Freelancer would have benefited from in my opinion is interactive cut scenes with dialog options to help shape the story, but this was far ahead of Freelancers time, and should a sequel ever be made, i’m sure will be included.

Finally the atmosphere that’s generated in this game is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The soundtrack fits so well with the feel of the game it immerses you in the universe fantastically. Tense scenes are incredibly tense, and the scope of the galaxy is beautifully captured for an older game.

Of course no game is perfect, and Freelancer is no exception. Sometimes the lack of variation in the interior design detracts from the overall feel, and as mentioned, some of the side missions do become tedious. However these points are overshadowed completely by the positives this game has to offer.

The proof that this game is timeless is in the strong modding base this game still has after 14 years. Complete overhauls of the games graphics and even new storylines have been developed by the modding community to keep the game alive, one of the latest being crossfire 2.0 which is a must use mod for any Freelancer players.

This game was the first game that made me realise how beautifully done games can be when care is given to them. The designers, the artists, the audio tech guys, they all cared, and it showed, and it made me realise; can I do this? I want to learn how this is done, what makes this game the wonder that it is? What keeps players interested enough to spend hundreds of hours of their times modding it to make it even greater?

This is the kind of designer I want to be. This is the kind of game I want to make. For 10 years this game has stuck with me, I have completed it more times than i’ll admit to, and spent hundreds of hours enjoying every aspect of it, and I hope in the not to distant future, I can give other gamers the same joy.

 

 

Comparing video games and music, and why I’m choosing a career in game design

So, before I get into what this blog is about, a little about myself.

Born and raised in a small city in the north of Wales/UK, I spent 18 years there, where there was little to do, so I took up video games. Moved to Brighton,UK at 18 for university where I did a master’s degree in mathematics, and now, a year on from that I find myself in New Zealand on a working visa.

I remember one of the first games I ever played when I was about 5 was GTA2, (a little mature perhaps, fun nonetheless), but the first game I properly sunk my teeth into was Unreal Tournament, the original, I’d play for hours after school, and, pretty much constantly on the weekends.

It was around 12/13 I got hooked on gaming, along with music.

I took up the guitar and drums, and trained classically. After a few years learning (and when I was a little more mature) this allowed me to see music in a new light, more for its components, it’s depth, complexity, structure, and how to differentiate well written music from poor.

More recently, within the last 4 or 5 years I’ve started to adopt this mentality towards games, after all, it’s just as much a creative process with many of the same themes and structures. With music you can look at each musician, how their instrument helps build the music, how key changes, and major and minor chords influence the atmosphere of a piece. With a game you can do the same; how does the UX designer get me engrossed, how do the artists emerse me in the worlds? How do Foley artists make seemingly familiar sounds for items or animals that don’t exist? Taking this critical view has given me a desire to learn, just as I did with music, how video games are born.

The end results for both is, to me, the same. Good music envelops you, if you find a piece of music, or a song you can really connect with, it stays with you, personally it can occupy such a large part of my mind with its moving parts, I don’t need anything else. Good games do the same, but on a larger scale. And no, I’m not talking about shiny graphics or blockbuster titles (nor am I excluding them) I’m talking about the story, the emersion, the music, the creativity that drives deep in to the players mind, the aspects that stay with them.

This all seems perhaps a little exaggerated you might argue, after all, when the song is finished or you’re done gaming, you just go back to being you, doing your chores or heading to sleep, nothing has changed? But look at it this way, what if everything  has changed? Music and video games are with us now from such an early age, it shapes many of us, and helps define many aspects of who we are and what we do. So I don’t personally believe what I have said is an exaggeration, when to me it is so much of who we are.

What I personally believe is, there is very little to separate music and gaming, just cause the latter is newer and its roots arebt as established. It shouldn’t deduct from its impact, which is undeniable.

This, all of this, is why I’m choosing this career. At the end of my life, chances are I won’t be world renowned, I’m not trying to move mountains, but I will hopefully be able to look back knowing I contributed my little bit to the world, in a positive way.